8 April 2016 - Blog Entry N. V

The Holy Father's Apostolic Exhortation does not appear to present any modifications or additions to canon law whatsoever, despite inaccurate speculation to the contrary on the part of some.  The Pope explicitly states in this regard:

300.  If we consider the immense variety of concrete situations such as those I have mentioned, it is understandable that neither the Synod nor this Exhortation could be expected to provide a new set of general rules, canonical in nature and applicable to all cases. [emphasis added]  What is possible is simply a renewed encouragement to undertake a responsible personal and pastoral discernment of particular cases, one which would recognize that, since “the degree of responsibility is not equal in all cases”, the consequences or effects of a rule need not necessarily always be the same.

To a large degree, the above quote of the second referenced phrase sums up, in various modal applications replete within the text, an overarching filigree of the Holy Father's 261-page opus.


7 April 2016 - Blog Entry N. IV

With the imminent publication of Pope Francis's Apostolic Exhortation Amoris laetitiae, scheduled for release at Noon Roman Time (GMT+1) Friday 8 April, Canonical Aid will be posting on this blog on the same day an overview of any modifications that will have been made to the Code of Canon Law ​or other applicable legislation.


10 February 2016 - Blog Entry N. III

The Sussidio Applicativo was referenced by Vatican Radio in its digest of 9 February, summarizing the results of the latest meeting of the Council of Cardinals advising the Holy Father: 

“In conclusion, the G-9 cardinals received documentation on the so-called vademecum [viz. the sussidio] or reference manual drawn up by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota for putting into practice the reforms of the canonical process concerning the validity of marriages. The vademecum will be sent to dioceses around the world.” [emphasis ours]




7 February 2016 - Blog Entry N. II

The official newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference, "Avvenire" included an article in its 4 February edition on the Sussidio Applicativo or "Aid in Application of the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus" previously reported on this blog.  An original translation of the article from the Italian is proposed below as an aid in the understanding of the "Aid in Application," pending its wide release:

Nullity of Marriage: a Vademecum

by Luciano Moia

Ex "Avvenire", 4 February 2016


Now there are no more excuses. The reform of the processes of nullity of marriage, decided by the Motu Proprio of the Pope last September, can definitively take flight.

The move on the part of Francis, decided in order to translate into coherent indications the intention on the part of the Church to embrace wounded families within a perspective of truth in mercy, since yesterday is endowed with a new technical instrument in order to clarify residual doubts.

A sort of vademecum that puts black on white all that there is to know about the reform. The "Aid in application of the Motu proprio Mitis iudexDominus Iesus" was in fact published by the Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota. Seventy pages subdivided into three chapters – apart from substantive appendices - that are aimed to respond to all of the possible difficulties "concerning the ways, the types, the persons, the figures" regarding the two processes, the one that is brief and the one that is ordinary. The text addresses itself to professionals in the field in a technical-juridical language, and remands itself to the articles of the Motu Proprio and to the "Rescript" of the past 11 December concerning the widespread reform, again under the signature of Pope Francis.

The first chapter addresses the main points of the reform, beginning with the centrality of the bishop. It reiterates that the ordinary is the irreplaceable figure in the administration of canonical justice, who has the faculty to establish a diocesan tribunal, or to join an interdiocesan tribunal. But it also speaks of the "synodality of the pastoral service of justice." This means that the bishop exercises his function in line with other figures - for example, the bishops of the metropolitan or ecclesiastical region - using the support of judicial vicars.

Regarding the brief processes, the bishop is judge but in order to instruct the process, he uses the services of experts at its disposal. The handbook delves into the modalities of other procedures, underlines once again the gratuity of the processes for the faithful, and highlights the urgent need to set up in every diocese a juridical-pastoral office for persons who are separated or divorced [and living] in a new union. The office, which should arise from the fold of diocesan family ministry, has as its objective that of accompanying the faithful who, in the light of failure [of a marriage], want to ascertain [whether] a marriage is null. The approach, it is reprised, must be pastoral within a framework of welcome and mercy.

But who will undertake this service? Naturally, persons who are able to offer legal, pastoral and theological expertise in an harmonious manner. Consequently, pastors with special preparation, laity trained for this purpose, but also more complex structures. During a meeting organized ten days ago, in the presence of regional delegates, the possibility in this regard of bringing to the table the network of Family Services that today already assumes part of the expertise requested by the Aid in Application of the Motu Proprio was proposed to the National Office for the Pastoral Care of the Family of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.

The chapter of the Sussidio that offers practical guidelines on how to interpret the "indicia of nullity” is of great relevance.  It explains that these "indications" are not per se grounds of nullity, but must always be supported by testimonies and probative documents. Even "indications" with a more clamorous appearance, such as procured abortion or the absence of faith, remain [qualified only] as "elements of invalidity” if they are not sustained by other circumstances.

In the Allocution given to the Roman Rota on 22 January, the Pope recalled the case of the absence of faith which, as attested to by the classical jurisprudence, does not constitute per se an element of nullity. The handbook also specifies that the invalidity of a marriage is concretized when a weak faith determines a defect in the will. If one who marries refuses, for example, the principle of indissolubility, or manifests an intention not to have children, one contradicts the nature of Christian marriage and thus sets the stage for the invalidity of the marriage. Other “indications of nullity” examined by the new Aid in Application are, for example, “the obstinate conducting of an extramarital affair at the time of the wedding. "   

Source: retrieved on 7 February 2016




3 February 2016 – Blog Entry N. I

The Tribunal of the Roman Rota has begun making available an Italian-language original document of 72 pages entitled, “Sussidio Applicativo del Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex Dominus Iesus”, roughly translated, “Aid in Application” of the Motu Proprio Mitis Iudex.  The place of publication is the [translated] “Vatican City State, January 2016.”  The text is unsigned.  No individual author is referenced.  The authority listed as issuing the document is [translated] “Apostolic Tribunal of the Roman Rota” on the front cover and frontispiece of the handsome libretto.

The basis of the title “Sussidio” is the fourth paragraph of the Rescript ex audientia Ss.mi given by Pope Francis on 7 December 2015, wherein the Holy Father referenced the assistance to lower courts that the Tribunal of the Roman Rota is to provide according to the norm of Art. 126 of the Apostolic Constitution Pastor Bonus.

The text is most helpful in elucidating for canonists the norms of the new Ordinary, Briefer, and Documentary Processes proposed to the faithful who come before the tribunals of the Church seeking the truth about a cause of nullity of marriage.

The text, although unsigned and not labeled in any other manner than “sussidio applicativo” is proposed as being representative of the mens pontificia of Pope Francis as proposed by the Tribunal of the Roman Rota.

Some of the most interesting parts of the text propose an elucidation of those terms which, among canonists, have been some of the most talked-about points of Mitis Iudex, namely those circumstances under which the application of the Briefer Process is deemed possible according to the norms of Art. 14 of the Motu Proprio.

Please note that any of the following excerpts of the text in English are this author’s own personal translations of some of the most interesting portions of the original Italian text, here proposed subject to the Roman Rota’s own English translation once it is issued.

To begin, a summary of the 72 page text breaks down as follows:

Introduction – p. 5

Cornerstones of the Reform – p. 9

I. Immediate Provisions of the Diocesan Bishop – p. 13

II. The Unfolding of the Cause – p. 23

Appendices – p. 45

Index – p. 71

Concerning the Briefer Process before the Bishop, on p. 33, the Sussidio offers an important explication of the scope of the defectus fidei referenced in Art. 14 of Mitis Iudex.  Just before commenting on the scope and import of the defectus fidei, the text provides an answer to a question it raises among others, in a user-friendly style of the Catechism: “How are the circumstances described by art. 14 of the Procedural Regulations [supposed] to be understood?  In reply: “It is necessary to clear the field of equivocations: these circumstances of fact are not new [grounds] (“capi”) of nullity. [...]

 “One refers to the absence of the faith, which leads to a false knowledge of matrimony or in simulation of the will [to marry].  In other terms, one finds oneself before an error that determines the will (cf. can. 1099), or a defect of the valid intention by exclusion of marriage itself of one of its elements or essential properties (cf. can. 1101, § 2).

The dechristianization of the society of today provokes a grave deficit of the understanding of marriage itself, such as to determine the will.  The crisis of marriage, therefore, in its origins is none other than a crisis of illuminated understanding of the faith (Footnote N. 44 with reference to Pope Francis’ Allocution to the Roman Rota of 23 January 2015 ). The human and cultural formation of the person suffers from a strong and sometimes determinative influx of a modern mentality (Footnote N. 45 referencing Pope Francis, Ap. Exhort. Evangelii Gaudium, n. 93); a faith locked in subjectivism, closed within the immanence of its motives or sentiments (Footnote N. 46, cf. ibid., n. 94), reveals itself to be insufficient [in sustaining] a correct knowledge of the matrimonial institution and its constitutive duties.”

The circumstance of an “unforeseen pregnancy of a woman” is explicated on the bottom of page 34:

“If the motive which impels a party to contract marriage is wholly extraneous to the communion of the conjugal life (for example, the acquisition of citizenship, the legitimation of children, the obtainment of economic benefits) or consists exclusively in the unexpected pregnancy of the woman, one can [draw a] profile of the possibility that one or both of the spouses did not in reality want marriage, understood as an interpersonal donation of the spouses to be.  This circumstance frequently occurs simultaneously with others, such as the brevity of the conjugal life and the initiative to separate and divorce.”

As you can see, the Sussidio brings an important contribution to the canonical practitioner’s understanding of the interpretation of the Tribunal of the Roman Rota given to the Rescript of 7 December 2015.

If I learn of an English translation being posted on the Vatican website, I will be sure to update.  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        M. B.

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